As Cop28 enters final days, where do the critical negotiations stand?

Many issues remain - especially the key one on what the future of fossil fuels will be

Efforts to limit global temperature rises are at the heart of crunch Cop28 negotiations. Pawan Singh / The National
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As Cop28 negotiations continue, it looks like key areas of discussion could be difficult to resolve.

And, if previous Cop summits are anything to go by, there could be an extension on Tuesday's scheduled deadline.

The global stocktake will take centre stage, which assesses where the world is on climate change and what needs to happen now.

The crunch point is what the text will – or won’t – say about dealing with fossil fuels.

Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed
Bob Ward

A draft text published on Friday indicated that five options were being considered, including phasing out of all fossil fuels in line with scientific recommendations.

Intermediate options include a complete phasing out of fossil fuels, which would allow their continued burning, as long as emissions were captured.

The EU has previously announced its desire for there to be a commitment to "phase out" fossil fuels, as has the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which represents some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

And Bob Ward, from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in the UK, said Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber was keen for progress to be made on the subject.

"I think the Presidency of Dr Sultan Al Jaber has been very active in laying out an ambitious agenda, has been trying to drive for an ambitious outcome," Mr Ward told The National.

"The Cop Presidency, it’s a difficult job. You’re trying to co-ordinate 197 countries. It often means long, hard days, lack of sleep, a lot of pressure."

Mr Ward said that the UAE itself wanted to deal with climate change because it was as much affected by it "as any other country".

"They can see the impact in this region," he added. "Dr Sultan Al Jaber has credibility on this issue. I think he is seriously committed."

Mr Ward added that adaptability is now key, as negotiators enter the latter stages of the conference.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," he said.

"There’s unofficial linkages. Some countries are obstructive in some areas in order to leverage influence in other areas.

"Adaptation is a key issue, particularly for the most vulnerable countries. They’re dealing with it right now."

Mr Ward said finding agreement on adaptation was "even more critical" than the setting up of the fund for the loss and damage caused by climate change.

This fund, initiated at Cop27 in Egypt last year but with its first funding announcements made at Cop28, has been seen as a key early success of this year’s gathering in Dubai.

While nations with major fossil fuel interests are thought likely to push back against tougher language on fossil fuels in the final text, it is understood that negotiations are continuing in a constructive manner.

One possible area of agreement between major emitters, such as the US and China, may involve commitments to expanding renewables being tied to the phasing down of fossil fuels.

The idea of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) underpins many discussions on climate change, reflecting the reality that not all countries are equally responsible for causing climate change, nor have equal means to deal with it or to transition their economies to greener technology.

While acknowledging that different countries will have to move at different speeds when it comes to limiting emissions, some developed countries are nonetheless reluctant for a binary division between the nearly 200 nations involved in the process to emerge.

Updated: December 10, 2023, 3:22 AM